Stay in Contact
Artfully designed and managed opt-in e-mailed newsletters offered by catalogers can create a strong emotional bond with customers.
E-newsletters can be broadly defined and may include original, product-independent content (e.g., recipes, feature articles, letters to the editor) as well as news about a sender’s products (e.g., special promotions, new-merchandise previews). Numerous catalogers already offer e-newsletters, including Musician’s Friend, Healthy Roads, Femail Creations and Time Motion Tools.
Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., a principal with the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG), which published a study on recipients’ attitudes toward e-mailed newsletters from businesses, says, “The positive emotional aspect of e-newsletters is that they can create more of a bond between user and company than a mere Web site can.”
The NNG study, entitled “Email Newsletter Usability,” appeared on the heels of a similar report released by DoubleClick, an Internet marketing firm. The DoubleClick survey found that 37 percent of all promotional e-mail in the third quarter of 2002 was opened by recipients. Business products and services e-mails had the highest open rates at 47 percent, followed by travel and consumer products and services at 42 percent.
Following are some design guidelines and strategies that can help you better plan and manage an e-newsletter program.
• Don’t waste potential subscribers’ time. Too often, subscribing to an e-mail newsletter becomes a convoluted process demanding the completion of a long, drawn-out form. NNG recommends an online subscribing process that takes no more than 60 seconds.
“On average, among the newsletters we studied, the subscribe process took five minutes — much too long for this simple functionality,” Nielsen says. “Only newsletters that involve a subscription fee should be allowed so many steps to their subscription process that the average user can’t subscribe in two minutes.”
Catalogers such as Musician’s Friend and Healthy Roads both endorse Nielsen’s minimalistic approach. For those subscribing to their e-newsletters, the catalogers require nothing more than an e-mail address.